Future Alabama-USC game in the offing?

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Depending how factors on a few fronts shake out, two of the most storied football programs in the history of college football could meet on the gridiron for the first time in over three decades.  Maybe.  Possibly.

A USC official confirmed to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News that discussions have taken place regarding a future neutral site game against Alabama.  Specifically, there have been talks about the Tide and the Trojans opening the 2016 season at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

The two programs last met in the Aloha Bowl following the 1985 season and first met in 1938.  All told, the Tide and the Trojans have squared off seven times — the former owns a 5-2 edge — including the historic meeting in 1970 “in which John McKay’s visiting Trojans, with their all-black starting backfield, pounded Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide 42-21.”  That game, the story goes, forever changed Alabama football.

Adding further intrigue would be Lane Kiffin, who was fired as USC’s head coach a month into the 2013 season and then hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator a few months later.  And, yes, I would be just as giddy about such a game as I was when Kiffin was hired by Nick Saban.

There are, however, several hurdles that need to be navigated before such a clash of iconic brands could take place.

“We often get approached about scheduling opportunities,” the spokesperson told the News. “We have been approached about doing this game and we are looking at it, but there are a number of real challenges to scheduling this game. For instance, our 2016 schedule is full. We also need to evaluate the financial ramifications. At the end of the day, that could be an issue.”

For his part, Saban would only talk in scheduling generalities when asked about the potential matchup.

“We’re always looking, but not anything I can share with you right now,” the coach said according to the Anniston Star. “I don’t think we want to create speculation. We’re playing Wisconsin in Dallas the next year (2015 opener), and we were supposed to play Penn State in 2016. They bailed out on us, so we’re looking for an opponent to play somewhere in 2016 right now.

According to the excellent website FBSchedules.com, the Trojans, which play nine conference games in the Pac-12, only have two of its three non-conference games booked that year: the annual rivalry game with Notre Dame and the opener against New Mexico. Perhaps the third game has been finalized and not announced?

Regardless, there are no real scheduling issues on the Tide’s end as UA has yet to announce any of their four non-conference games that season. In September of last year, UA canceled a home-and-home series with Michigan State that was to begin in 2016.

As far as the financial ramifications go, owner Jerry Jones and his stadium will make sure each team is handsomely rewarded for giving up a home game.  In 2017, for instance, both Florida and Michigan will be paid in excess of $6 million for playing their opener at Cowboys Stadium.

(Photo credit: Showtime)

Rutgers AD takes to Twitter to support head coach Chris Ash, downplay any hot seat talk

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We’re weeks away from the 2018 season beginning and with media days underway across the country, there’s inevitably some talk of which coaches are on the hot seat and who might be a few losses away from feeling the heat.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd complies a list every year of who might be feeling some pressure and who is safer than can be around the sport. One of the coaches who he listed as ‘start improving now’ (or a 4 on a 1-5 hot seat scale) was Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. The Scarlet Knights job is one of the hardest in football given their place in the Big Ten and while there has been some progress in the rebuild, Ash is 6-18 overall and only picked up his first conference win last season.

It’s only Year 3 of Ash’s tenure though and it seems that kind of pressure isn’t quite reflecting reality from the administration as athletic director Pat Hobbs took to his Twitter account on Saturday to say that there’s no hot seat at all for the young head coach:

We’re sure that Ash appreciates the extra bit of support publicly in what he’s doing with the program but something says he’ll be asked to comment about the whole thing next week at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. The Scarlet Knights certainly looked much improved in 2017 between the lines but digging out of such a big hole for the program is going to only get tougher as they try to get over the hump and make a bowl game in 2018.

Bowling Green dismisses two players for illegal use of school credit cards

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We’re just over a few weeks from fall camp starting around the country so needless to say, it’s a bad time to lose some players. Such is unfortunately the case for Mike Jinks at Bowling Green however as the program just dismissed two members of the team’s defense.

According to The Toledo Blade, redshirt sophomore linebackers Armani Posey and Dirion Hutchins were both dismissed “as a result of an investigation into the illegal use of credit/debit cards that belonged to the school.” Bowling Green later confirmed that the two players were no longer on the roster.

Posey, also a student and member of the football team, was charged June 26 with receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of property. He was found guilty July 9 of unauthorized use of property, a misdemeanor, in Bowling Green Municipal Court and was given a 180-day jail term that was suspended. The terms of his probation include having no criminal offenses for the next two years, paying $2,000 restitution to the Bowling Green athletics department, and paying a $500 fine.

The charges are the result of a police investigation that began after the university discovered irregular charges on debit card accounts designated for athletic book scholarships. Investigators think the cards were used by those who had the card numbers and security codes.

Mr. Hutchins is accused of taking money off the cards and placed them in a PayPal or Squareup account, then transferred to a bank and liquidated for cash. All told, he is accused of making 27 deposits and taking $9,066 between April 23 and June 26, court documents show.

The illegal usage of school credit cards has been a growing issue in college football the past few years. Just recently, as many as eight Rutgers players were being investigated for the same kind of scheme and some nine Florida Gators were suspended last season for similar reasons.

It’s also been a trying offseason for the Falcons themselves even prior to this latest bit of news. Defensive back and part-time starter Cam Jefferies announced a graduate transfer, wideout Matthew Wilcox was picked up for his second OVI in April, fellow receiver Datin Guyton was dismissed and lost their kicker due to a bizarre eligibility case.

Now on top of all of that, BGSU loses a five-game starter in Posey and a pass-rusher in Hutchins who played in every game last season. Not exactly what you want to have go on during the offseason when you’re coming off a 2-10 year and facing a non-conference schedule with three Power Five foes. The Falcons open at Oregon on September 1st.

Oregon State handed secondary violation for sending mail to Hawaii players

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It has been a pretty slow offseason in college football overall but one of the bigger stories of the past few months had to come back in May when Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of some recruiting mail from Oregon State aimed at current Rainbow Warriors players. The minor scandal over a Pac-12 school trying to poach a few players so early into Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith‘s tenure was obviously quite the black mark and also had the added layer of several of his new assistants at one time having been coaches at Hawaii.

Now we know exactly what kind of NCAA violations the school committed and spoiler alert, it’s quite minor. Per The Oregonian, the program self-reported a secondary violation as a result of the mailings and were barred by the NCAA from “recruiting the unnamed player in question should he elect to transfer.”

“We initiated a self-report to the NCAA once we learned the inadvertent mistake was made,” Oregon State associate athletic director of communications Steve Fenk said in a statement to the paper. “We admit and understand that what we did was an unintentional violation. The punishment fits. We didn’t try to do anything covert. It was an honest mistake that we took responsibility for.”

No harm no foul all things considered but the whole incident makes that trip to Hawaii for Oregon State in 2019 a lot more interesting now.

Ole Miss hopes to hear back about NCAA appeal this fall, self-reports Level III violation for fans contacting recruits

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It was quite the week for Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. First he faced the firing squad of media members at SEC Media Days in Atlanta and then he shuffled off to attend the school’s hearing in front of the NCAA Infraction Appeals Committee on Wednesday.

Per the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Rebels are hoping for a decision on reducing their bowl ban and other restrictions at some point during this season:

(AD Ross) Bjork and football coach Matt Luke both said they expect the Infraction Appeals Committee to release its final decision, which will either confirm or revise the Committee on Infractions’ conclusions, sometime this fall. Bjork said Ole Miss has not been given a more specific timeline. The COI handed down penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, recruiting restrictions, financial penalties and probation for 21 allegations of violations.

But that’s not the only bit of news surrounding violations at the school this week.

Bjork confirmed to the paper that Ole Miss has self-reported a Level III violation to the SEC league office after a group of fans/boosters improperly contacted recruits through social media sometime late last year. The AD termed the behavior as “direct and deliberate,” resulting in the violation of NCAA rules limiting the contact with recruits. While that minor violation is unlikely to have any impact on the appeal, it’s notable because many of the initial major violations the school was hit for last year involved improper contact with boosters.

NCAA appeals in general are rarely successful so there’s still only a slim chance that the Rebels become eligible for a bowl game this year but until everything is exhausted in the process, Luke and the rest of the folks at Ole Miss can still hold out some hope that they might get a little relief come postseason time.